Saturday, February 28, 2009

Long Day of Softball

Our first game was at 8 a.m. at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex on the Wrigley Field diamond. Here are some pics:

Yes, the sun wasn't even up yet when we arrived at the complex.

I took this as I left the complex since I was still asleep when we passed it in the morning.

All of the fields had actual dugouts, which are pretty nice and protect you from the sun at least a little.

Here are the Brew Dogs for 2009, taken in front of the Wrigley Field scoreboard. Looks pretty real huh?

Yep, Chicago.

There's the scoreboard painted on the wall in the outfield.

They even had the rooftops from left field.....albeit a bit dated.

The long shot of the outfield wall.

Did I mention that it was a bit dated? Yes, the fans are clearly odd and reproduced at all 8 fields.

Here's as much of the Wrigley outfield wall that I could get in one picture.

Tomorrow I'll post pictures of the other seven fields. Today we started at 8 and played three straight games and five in total. We went 3-2, which was good enough for 7th out of 18 teams....not great, but it was our first tournament of the year and we were playing against teams from Arizona and California that get to play all winter as well. The two other teams from Illinois both went 0-2.

We played pretty well considering the circumstances. On the Wrigley diamond, the sun was directly in the batters' eyes, so you were swinging where you hoped the ball would be. It was really tough. Yes, the sun is there for both teams, but if you play on those fields all the time, like our Arizona opponents, you're at least used to having the problem. Heck, we hardly even see the sun in Chicago during the winter!! We won the first game however, lost the second, won the next two and lost the fifth game. Due to injuries, I was playing third instead of first. I made one nice play early in the day and then didn't have a ball hit to me until the last game. Weird. Fortunately I finished strong in hitting going 7-8 in the last two games. For the first three games I went 2-4, 1-3 and 2-4 to finish 12-19 which is a robust .630 OBA. Not bad for an old man.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tournament weekend......and then some

This weekend my softball team is traveling to Phoenix for an 18 team tournament called the Spring Training Classic. For your reference, here's the bracket link. You'll note that we play at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Ugh. It's particularly bad for most of our team who won't arrive on Friday night until 11 p.m. local time. I'm going in the afternoon though and arrive around 4 p.m.

But it's not just ANY tournament. It's an NIT which means if we do well, we get an invitation to the world series in Disney in September. That's the goal every year and we've done it the last two years. So kicks off the softball year. But that's not all either. The tournament is being held at the Big League Dreams complex which replicates popular major league stadiums (in appearance and reduced in scale). We open up at Wrigley too!!! I'll make sure to take lots of pictures. The other fields are: Fenway (Boston), Yankee Stadium (NY), The Polo Grounds (NY) and Forbes Field (Pittsburgh). Should be fun.

After the tournament, we're going to hang around Phoenix for a few days and catch some spring training baseball games. Monday I'm going to try to see the Sox and Tuesday we already have tickets for the Cubs right behind their dugout. Woot-woot!!!! Des, I'll try to get an autograph for you. Who do you want??

So it might be tough for me to post every day. I will be taking the computer though.

Things I'm grateful for:
#97 Trips to warmer climates in the winter.
#98 The return of baseball every year, "...the constant through all the years..."--Field of Dreams
#99 Fun teammates on my softball team. Win or lose, we at least have fun.
#100 My "being grateful" exercise and blogging in general.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Ash Wednesday!! Welcome Lent! :-)

In case you aren't Catholic (or have been asleep...ahem...Ricardo), today was Ash Wednesday. Fortunately my church had an 8:30 morning mass so I was able to start the day off at the newly renovated church before starting the rest of my day. Last year at this time, the church renovations were underway and we had mass in the lower church which is, as its name implies, down stairs. It's been a good year for the church.

So why do I sound so excited about Lent starting? It's a time for giving up something fun or tasty and you're not allowed to have meat on Friday and you're fasting.....ugh. Well, it's a very religious and solemn time for me and many Catholics (not all because people have religion in their lives for different reasons) which ends in the most religious day of the year for us: Easter. Christmas is widely celebrated of course, but our entire FAITH is based around Easter.

Lent is the Easter pre-cursor where I try to prepare mentally for the Easter celebration and all that leads up to it during Holy Week. During Lent I'll go to church in the morning at least once a week during the week, will be giving up all candy bars and such, and will do some form of charitable works and/or giving over the next 40 days. I choose to look at it as a very positive time with a great celebration at the end.

Some Lent info: Lent actually ends on Holy Saturday; During Lent, each Sunday is "exempt" from fasting and should be celebrated like a mini Easter; Those Sundays during Lent aren't included in the 40 days of Lent (i.e. Lent is actually 46 or 47 days long).

So don't lament Lent! Celebrate it!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Corporate Sponsorships

Anyone remember this video clip from 1988? Unfortunately all of the full segment links have been taken down by whomever currently owns the segment. They do a good job of policing their ownership. Funny two minute SNL clip though.

So on my way to my parents' house on Saturday, I stopped at a stoplight on a new street running between the highway and a through street (called Freedom Drive by the way). There was no turn on red so I had to just sit there even though no traffic was coming. Straight in front of me was Devry Institute. It got me to thinking, what if Devry PAID to have this road put in with this rather odd no turn sign? Wouldn't that be a corporate sponsorship coup? I mean you see all sorts of corporate sponsorship in television shows now (Jack Bauer is chasing after a "dark colored Jeep Cherokee" in this week's episode for instance), so why couldn't there be corporate sponsorships of city works? There are already sponsored libraries and such right? With city and state budgets coming under more and more intense budgetary pressure, how long will it be before we see:

Morton Salt trucks
Hi-C school crossing signs
Twinkie Yield sign
John Deere Deer Crossing sign
Stop signs brought to you by Weight Watchers
Pet-Smart Animal Control
Google Maps street signs
Speedo public pools
Kellogg Kindergarten
Tivo photo monitored intersections
Red Bull Speed Limit signs
Subway Subway signs

Any other ideas??

Monday, February 23, 2009

Christmas Revisited

Saturday was a big day at the elder Sutton's house. About this time every year, my parents hold "Card Picking" Day where we all gather and vote on the best Christmas card received by my parents that year. Of course the kids all compete to send the best card and past winners are aware of the contest, but most people don't know about it. There's a list of rules stemming from "irregularities" of the past.

Here was my entry this year. Some of you might have even received it as well. Unfortunately, it did not make the cut. In round one, where everyone selects two cards and narrows down the 50 or so cards down to 14-16, you're not allowed to pick your card or a card your family sent. Later in the voting, you're allowed to vote for your own card. This year's winner was sent by Bee and was a finalist last year too, running second to my card.

It's a fun tradition that's been in place for over 30 years now. The winning card is framed on hung in the hallway referred to as the "Wall of Fame". The winner also gets a letter from my parents notifying them of their victory and prestige. My sister Lori has carried on the tradition at her house though she hasn't framed and hung the cards yet. The same group that votes on my parents' cards votes on my sister's and for the second year in a row I won!!! Whoo-hooo!!!

Things I'm grateful for:
#94 Card picking day with the family!
#95 Sunny Sundays on my chaise.
#96 A comfy sofa.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lasting Message

It was a sunny, though cold, Sunday in Chicago as we sit underneath a high pressure system and await a warming trend from the south midweek. One of my favorite things to do on such a day is to read or watch television while sitting in the sun on my chaise lounge chair in the front living room. The southern exposure gets sun light most of the day and it's warmth as well.

Today I was reading National Geographic Adventure, a magazine my parents receive in addition to their regular Nat Geo subscription. Early on in the publication was a short blurb about a French artist. If you had to guess what blurb I would NOT read, it would be this one. However, this blurb was slightly different in that it was a blurb and not a story and that the artist doesn't really strike me as much of an artist. More....a dude with an idea. But who am I to say what is art?

Anyway, the Frenchman, Jean-Marc Philippe (which sounds like three first names to me) has decided to shoot up into orbit around the earth a titanium sphere carrying a message from anyone who cares to write one. Enough disks will be sent up in the sphere to hold a message from all 6 billion people on the planet. The orbiter then reenter the atmosphere and come back to earth in 50 millennia (that's 50,000 years). I liked the idea better when I first read it and thought it said 50 years. That would be cool. But 50,000 years?? Significantly less cool. If your children and grand children could read the message, that's much better in my book than someone so many generations removed.....roughly 1,667 generations. Yikes.

Still, if you'd like to write a message, here's the link!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Market Turmoil

Regarding the academy awards, I found this article to be a compelling summary.

The market continues to be in turmoil as you are probably well aware. The Dow set a 6 year low and it appears that a new bottom could be set today. So what are we to do oh financial guru?? Well, that's the million dollar question. Against all reason, the last 4-5 months have not stabilized the markets seemingly at all. With lots of cash being thrown into the economy, inflation is a virtual certainty at some point, but when? Gold is at or near it's highs already however. Bonds will have a tough time retaining value in an inflationary environment, especially as interest rates move counter intuitively lower.

So where to put your money....if you have any? Well, as far as your 401-k investing, I don't think you should change your strategy at all. Regarding IRA contributions, if you can hold off making it until April (or later if you file for an extension) I would do that. By then, we should know if the stock market is stable again or if corporate bonds is the place to be or government bonds. Tax exempt bonds and inflation adjusting bonds should be reasonable alternatives in the short term. There are mutual funds that invest in them specifically.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Slumming it

Day two of my morning workouts. While I got up at a reasonable hour, 7:30, I decided to have breakfast first and do some things around the house before stopping at the gym on my way to the office. Still, it was a morning workout, just not first thing. Tomorrow I have a physical therapy (PT) appointment at 11, so I'm not sure if I'm going to do the gym before or after. We'll see.

Last night I saw Slum Dog Millionaire. For the record, I was pretty convinced that this movie was a "critics" movie. You know the kind: The Piano, My Left Foot, Chariots of Fire, movies that are critically acclaimed but barely watchable for most of the viewing public. What a surprise!! The cinematography was just outstanding, the acting pretty darn good and the story itself was much more compelling than the synopsis I had read. Looking at their competition, on the surface, they should dominate the Oscars. Benjamin Button (nice storyline, but just a love story right?), Frost/Nixon (an interview??), Milk (c'mon, there aren't THAT many homosexuals in Hollywood are there?.....ok, I know that was inflammatory and insensitive, but it made me laugh), The Reader (did anyone actually see this??). There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of competition on the total picture side of things. Individual performances I guess could vary though.

Things I'm grateful for:
#91 Having lost my cell phone a few months back which provided the impetus for me buying my iPhone.
#92 The community that is my church. I only wish I took more advantage of what it offers.
#93 That Physical Therapists exist. They do a good job with all sorts of people, even when they are a pain in the ass as I can be sometimes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

App Entry

The other day, blogger Stef wrote about an app for the iPhone called Loseit. It's a free app which I had downloaded after seeing a commercial for it. Since she seemed so enamored with it, I decided to actually open it up and start to use it. It probably helped that I am not happy with my current weight and was looking for assistance in lowering it.

Well, so far so good. The app is pretty cool and easy to use. You set your current weight, goal weight and date, and enter in your daily exercise and food intake. It calculates how many calories you have left to use for the day etc.

And I PAID for my first app today! Yes, a whole $.99 out the window. Though I own over 1,000 songs, I've never paid for one. Just not big on it (afterall there is no marginal cost to the producer of either an app or a song), but I'm adjusting (they do provide value to me afterall). This app is called G-Park and was also recently advertised. When you park your car, you hit the app and the "park" button. It makes a note of where you are ( you can also take a picture or write a note to yourself too, like level R-7) . When you go do whatever it is that you need to do, you hit the find car button and it will make a map back to your car for you. For those who have known me for a while, you might remember that I used to have a map of the neighborhood on my refrigerator to help me find my car after circling lookng for a parking spot. On more than one occasion I thought the car was stolen because it wasn't where I thought I left it. Well no more!! Actually, it happens much less frequently now because I don't search for a spot as often ssince I have a parking spot, but it will still come in handy (I'm hopping) at the mall and when I'm visiting other towns.

I've also made a potentially life altering decision. It COULD be life altering or it could be a phase. Over the years I've known many people who can get up and workout in the morning (Joisey Ken for example is a morning workout person). I was never one of those people. Ever since I saw an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger of all people, I've wanted to be one. In his prime, he ran 5 miles and did a full workout BEFORE breakfast. That just seemed amazing to me. So after having coffee with one of these people, I've decided that I too am going to be a morning workout person. It will get my ass out of bed early, burn calories that I wouldn't be burning while sleeping and probably get me to the gym more regularly. Side benefits should be: able to make morning meetings again and could perform better at softball tournaments when games start at 8 or 9 in the morning. This morning was my first trip and it went swimmingly. Though I only had a lean cuisine for dinner last night and no snacks, I had a surprising amount of energy this morning. Here's to weight loss!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Scientific Study

From the comic pages surprisingly: To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. -Heather Cortez It's interesting to think about to whom I might be the world. The list is shorter than some of yours I'm sure, but interesting nonetheless.

On the radio yesterday, I heard about a study regarding the pace at which you ate. This study must have been an affirmation of prior studies, because I've heard the results before. Those who tend to eat quickly, tend to overeat and gain weight more readily than those who eat more slowly. I think I'm onto another conspiracy theory. Stay with me on this one.

So if you eat more slowly you get the sensation of being full prior to finishing your meal, or eating all of the food that is available, thus you eat less than those who scarf down a meal. Ok, I'm fine with that. Like I said, I've heard the results before.

Where do people eat quickly? Certainly in the U.S. in general and certainly NOT in Europe in general. Where is food served fast? Certainly in the U.S., outside of Charlie Trotter's, and certainly NOT in Europe, outside of our exported fast food restaurants. Fast food also, in general, needs to be eaten quickly because it gets cold faster than other types of food. Let your fries sit for 10 minutes before eating them before you call me a liar. The slowest meals on the planet occur in Europe, whether it's because they are lazy, don't work on tips, take smoking breaks or all of the above (which I contend to be true), they eat more slowly, albeit forcibly so.

So I think, somehow, there's a conspiracy to keep Americans fat and dumb (though the latter adjective is a completely different argument, it's tough to just write "fat" without "and dumb" after it. Try it, it's not easy.) More specifically, I think the Europeans are behind it!!! They don't beat us in anything (save for soccer and possibly skiing) yet they are one up on us in this category. Spill the beans Alexis!!! You know the truth! Get your new-found countrymen to talk!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Handyman Joe

This weekend was pretty laid back. Despite V-Day and the holiday, there really wasn't too much going on with me which usually means I'll be doing one of four things: working, working out, doing a home project and watching movies. All of those things happened this particular weekend as well.

The movies I watched were: Transsiberian and Blue Velvet (yes the one from the 1986). Both were pretty bad. Transsiberian I really WANTED to like because it has Woody Harrelson and Ben Kingsley. Though the story itself is compelling, there are MAJOR flaws with one of the main characters that really make the story unbelievably and the movie almost unwatchable. What a shame. Oh, and I also had most of it figured out in the first 20 minutes.

Blue Velvet...was just dumb. Wasn't it supposed to be some great, memorable fantastic movie?? It was awful, except for the Isabella Rossellini nude scenes that is. Dennis Hopper I guess was fine, but a little over the top. Laura Dern is just unwatchable as an actress. Seeing Kyle MacLachan (Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives--yeah, I watch them, what about it??) from 20 years ago was a bit crazy too, but I can't blame the movie for that. He turns 50 this month so he was 26-27 playing a 21 year old and actually pulled it off. Anyway, the dialogue and movie in general were horrible.

Onto the home project. If you've been to my condo and played pool, you probably noticed that my table "seems" slightly sloped. Well, with my new level app for my iPhone (yes, it actually is a bubble-level that has degrees on it!) I could determine for certain that my table was .6 degrees out of whack. Unacceptable. So I broke out the car jack and some two by fours and propped up that bad boy table (it has three thick stone slabs that weigh a ton) and was able to adjust the jack until the bubble level was perfectly level. Now I know I wasn't going to be able to make it perfect after trying to get shims in there and such, but I knew it would be better than it was and that's exactly how it turned out. The bubble app reads between 0 degrees and .1, which is about as good as I'm going to get in this building. I even broke it in with a quick game of nine ball and was very happy. Chalk one up for handyman Joe!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

First, what brain surgeon in the Cubs organization decided to have pitchers and catchers report on Friday the 13th? Yeah, that's not a bad omen for a team that hasn't won the world series in 100 years and has been swept out of the playoffs the last two years. Good thinking folks.

This week they've delivered both the Yellow Book Lakeview and the Yellow Book Chicago. Truly, in this day and age, is there really a need for either of these? What a tremendous waste of paper. I'm not sure I even remember the last time I looked at one as opposed to using the internet. Do they even have a selling point for being listed in the Yellow Pages anymore? Maybe being in the printed publication is free if you are part of their internet service or something.

This story has it all. Unbelievable and tragic too. I heard about it on the radio while driving home from softball.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Movies and such

Ok, if you haven't seen the Joaquin Phoenix interview on Letterman, you HAVE to watch it. Here's the link. Some seriously funny stuff going on. I've never been a huge fan of any of the Phoenix's, though I'll be headed to Phoenix in two weeks, so if he's going off the deep end I really don't think there's a huge loss to the planet. Call callous or whatever, but that's how I feel.

It was a weird Friday, even for me. I decided to go through some shows I Tivoed which included watching Black Snake Moan and Frosty Returns. It was like having beer and a milkshake. Very odd. Both were good though!! Brian Doyle Murray does the evil character's voice (Mr. Twitchell) in Frosty Returns. A little bit of trivia, I spent Easter over at the Murray house one year, which included, among other people, Brian and his mother. Unfortunately Bill didn't make it home that day.

I also watched some hockey and a movie, Transiberian. It was a full evening in front of the boob-tube. I wouldn't have it any other way.

This morning I went to my physical therapist, PT, and it appears that I have an "impingement" in my throwing shoulder, more specifically in one of the rotator cuff muscles. We'll work on rehabbing it and it should be fine for the start of the season, but it might be iffy for the tournament in Arizona in a few weeks. We'll see though.

Things I'm grateful for:
#88 Anytime you get one of those crazy emails that make outlandish claims about one political party or another or about a tremendous oil find that could remove our dependcy on foreign oil if only big oil would develop it, look it up on before forwarding it to other people. They will separate fact from fiction for you.
#89 Physical therapists. I've used them many, many times over my life and they are almost always super nice and helpful.
#90 Waiters who don't interrupt you while you're having a conversation and wait patiently for you stop talking before asking if you're ready to order or need drinks or whatever. There aren't enough of them in this world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When do you celebrate??

For the most part my cold has departed, though I'm still a bit stuffy. Nothing serious though. The shoulder is a serious issue though so I'm going to the physical therapist Friday morning. Ugh.

So when do you celebrate V-Day? On the day? The day before? Day after? Not at all? When I'm involved with a gal, we would rarely go out on the actual day. The day before or two days before is much better. Because those couples are going out on the day, it's that much LESS crowded at the restaurants on the days leading up to V-Day.

Same philosophy for sending flowers. I would always send them several days before V-Day. Why? It costs the same, so no, you don't save any money. BUT there are significantly fewer screw ups AND if there is one, you still have time to get the flower place to bail you out. PLUS, on V-Day, all of the gals are getting stuff. Two days before, she's the ONLY ONE getting something. Who will stand out?? I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Final wedding entry

After sleeping 11 hours on Monday night and 10 hours on Tuesday night, I'm finally feeling much better after this weekend's bout with a cold. Still, I'm looking forward to another nice night of sleep.

My next ailment has already flared up unfortunately. Actually, it started a few weeks ago and hasn't gotten any better. My right shoulder has some sort of strain in the rotator cuff, at least I think that's it, and throwing a softball is really difficult. At the end of the month, I have a softball tournament in Arizona, so it's off to the doctor and possibly a physical therapist to rehab it if needed. Ugh.

Thanks to Mr. Lopes (what's your screen name anyway?) for letting me know that Amy Freeze from Fox News Chicago is on Facebook. DJF still doubts she is the real Amy, but I'm trying to set up a tour of the station! That will show you DJF! Curse you!

Some final pictures from the weekend!

This is the Westin Hotel (I think) in Key West. What a building! It really stands out. It's very close to where the Disney Magic was docked as well, so it would be a good place to stay if you were departing from Key West on a cruise.

I just thought this was funny. It's a bar or something that we passed on the way to Key West. That little sign over the door just cracked me up.

Back to the wedding pics. Here's where I stayed.

To the right in this picture is another pool and hot tub. Straight ahead is the gazebo where the happy couple was married.

More lounging chairs and such around a lagoon of sorts. In the middle of this picture is the groom getting some pictures taken before the wedding.

Same lagoon, same groom, different stance.

This is the dolphin pool. That's right, the dolphin pool!! There are seven dolphins swimming around in here and I saw them on Saturday when I didn't have my camera and had a tough time getting a picture of them on Sunday when I did have my camera. Dammit.

Here's the top of one at least. They really were active when I didn't have my camera, but the trainers need to be there coaxing them to do stuff.

Here's one picture of the bride and groom at the gazebo with a hawk in the background. Unfortunately you can't really appreciate how big the bird is and how cool it looked in the background.

Here they are again. I just realized that I don't have any pictures of the bride and she's easily the better looking of the two!! Dumb Joe.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Skipping to Sunday

Going out of sequence for a day as I have already uploaded the pictures from Sunday's trip to Key West. Tomorrow I'll show you the wedding pics and some others which I took with my camera as opposed to these pics from my phone.

We were staying on Duck Key, which is in the middle of the Keys and there isn't anything else on the key except for the resort. As such, they decided they could charge any price they wanted for basic food products, like $3 for what amounts to about 6 ounces of coffee. Unbelievable.

So we heard about this place 10 miles away in the city of Marathon. If you are down there, you HAVE to go here. It' s only open until 2 p.m., so get there early. Wonderful food.

I opted for a half order of biscuits and sausage gravy and a banana pancake, all made from scratch. Very tasty and only like $6 or $8.

Here's a picture of the counter and grill area. Not very big! There's the chef in pink!

Here's a nice shot of the diner. You can see the back wall of the place. See, I wasn't kidding about it being small! Well worth the trip though.

Here's DJF and me sitting at the counter. I don't like to sit with my back to the door, but there didn't seem to be a risk in the Keys.

After a nice breakfast/lunch, we headed to Key West. It was about an hour and a half to two hour drive. Nice scenery on the way though.

After finding parking, which is not easy btw. We started on the Atlantic coast side here at the sourthern most point in the continental US. It's quite the photo-op and there was a line to get a pic. Yeah, nuts, I know.

When in Key West, you pretty much can't avoid Duval Street. At one end is the above pic and the Atlantic Ocean. On the other end is the Gulf. In between are lots of bars, galleries, some strip clubs, Starbucks, restaurants, hotels, pretty much everything!

One of our first stops was here: Sloppy Joe's. No particular reason other than it looked like fun.

Here's Paula and the drink menu. Apparently there's a back room with other, higher end beers. Paula was VERY friendly. I didn't take a picture of Bob, who used to live in Rogers Park and is a big Cub fan.

We came across this cruise ship, the Disney Magic. Stef, is that the one you were on??

Look at the rack on this mannequin!!! Holy crap!! That dress isn't going to look the same on a whole lot of women.

DJF thought I probably shouldn't post this picture, but I thought it was just damn funny. The shirts down there are hysterical too. I should have made note of some of them, but didn't. My bad. Read these thongs though. Very funny.

Things I'm grateful for:
#85 65 degree days in February!! No more snow! No more snow!
#86 Small restaurants that serve great food.
#87 Vicks Vapo-Rub. The stuff just clears my nasal passages when I have a cold.

Monday, February 09, 2009

More to come.

Sorry everyone , I was traveling a good part of the day and fighting off a cold at the same time. I just got home, 11:30, so I'm taking some NyQuil and hitting the sack. More tomorrow.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Keys, Cayes, where are my keys?

What a weekend so far down here on Duck Key, just north of US 1 from the town of Marathon. While not as warm as I would have liked, it's pretty decent. But even though I was here for a wedding and the weather was 10 degrees cooler than I hoped, those aren't the real stories. Ok, maybe the wedding was pretty big, but this story is a close second.

After arriving on Friday and before unloading the car, we drove to a nearby restaurant, Tom's, and ate some dinner and had a few beers. We returned, unloaded the car and took everything upstairs to the room. DJF as it turns out was in the throws of a cold and I now have it full force on Sunday. Ugh. That's not the big story though. Saturday morning, after going to the bar downstairs and drinking until 2 or so, there was no rush to get moving. I forgot to pack some particular socks though and because of the chillier than anticipated temps, I wanted to drive the car to Marathon and get a pair or two. No biggee.

So I looked for the keys but couldn't find them. DJF was already downstairs, so I told him I couldn't find them. He said he was sure they were in the room somewhere, because he remembered (as did I) him reading the tag on the keys that said "the replacement fee for lost keys is $250". You can see where this is going can't you?

DJF went up and looked through the room. Nothing. I went back up and we both scoured the room. Nothing. I went to car. Not there from what we could see. No where in the parking lot. Not with the valet. Not with the front desk. Nobody has turned in keys. Shit.

The wedding is at 4 and it's 1:00 by this time. I call AAA and they send a guy to get me into the car. Verifying that the keys weren't in the car was the next obvious step in my mind and I didn't want to wait until Sunday. It's 2:00 now and the guy gets the car door open pretty quickly. We search the interior cabin. Nothing. Then I hit the trunk latch.....the trunk doesn't open. There's an anti-theft device to prevent you from opening the trunk with the key. Can't get at it through the back seat either as it's a convertible and they are built differently. Great.

So now I call AAA again. This time we need a locksmith. AAA will pay the first $100, but this guy charges $225, so I have to agree to pay for the $125 before I come out. Sunday all the prices double. I could wait until Monday though. Nah, that would waste a day in the Keys. So he makes a trunk key, which won't start the car but will get us access to the trunk. It's now about 3:30. We open the trunk; no keys. Dammit!!!

The guy says he might be able to get a key to work for the ignition, but he'd have to call Alamo to get the proper info. He calls them, I get on the phone, they are going to charge me $100 to release the code info. Unbelievable. The GOOD news is that if we replace the key, then we won't have to pay the $250. Fine. This key, which AAA will pay another $100 for, will cost me an additional $175 because it's one of the digital/computer type keys. Great. He's not even sure it will work, but he won't charge me if it doesn't. It's 4:05, I gotta go!!!

So I'm at the ceremony (no pictures until I get home since they are on my camera, sorry!) with my phone on vibrate and just as they get to the ring exchange, the locksmith calls. I'm sitting in the last row so I walk away from everyone and tell him in hushed tones that I'll be there in a minute. After the ceremony ended I literally ran to the front to pay the guy and check the key. The key worked and in retrospect, I should have just jumped straight to the ignition key, but there was a good chance the keys were in the trunk and I didn't know he could make an ignition key. Anyway, it was quite the hassle.

On to the pictures. These are mostly from the resort.

Here's the pool at night......

and during the day.

Here's a gas fire pit that actually was nice to sit by at night and in the morning when it got into the low 60's and upper 50's.

Another shot of the resort. This is the lagoon further out back.

Another shot of the lagoon from the other direction.

The groom is getting his picture taken here, but he's blending in with the tall grass.

The ceremony was outside but the reception was moved inside because it was a little windy and slightly chillier than hoped.

My table mates: Steve, his wife Mary (who is allergic to glutens) and DJF. During dinner, Mary said she used to always hang out at High Tops, now Harry Caray's. I said it's much better now because High Tops was sort of skanky. She picked up a roll and whipped it at me before I knew what was happening. The rolls were square and one corner just missed hitting my eye flush. WTF?? I didn't say SHE was a skank, I said the place was skanky. I don't think she ever apologized either.......hmmmmm, nope, I don't think she did.

Here's the menu if you can click on it. Good stuff.

More pictures tomorrow!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Day one in the keys

Actually it's only a partial day, but we left for the airport at 9:30 so traveling took up most of the day. On the plane I watched Death Race, a pretty cool action movie. Highly recommend it especially if you have any affinity at all to Snake Pliskin.

Instead of taking the toll road and (supposedly) faster route to the keys, we took Dixie Highway, Highway 1....the more scenic route. Well, it didn't turn out to be scenic at all and traffic was awful!! We stopped a couple of times so by the time we got to Key Largo, we'd been driving for 2 hours already. The entire 100 mile trip, according to Google Maps, should have only took 2 hours. We went into a gas station and asked a guy inside how long it would take to get to Duck Key. He said an hour and a half. Ugh.

Apparently it was no better on the toll road as it took the bride and groom 3 hours to get to Duck Key from Miami when they arrived. It took us just under 3 hours in total I think to get to the resort.

On the way, we noticed how many strip clubs and pawn shops there were on Highway 1. The two best strip club names we saw were: The Booby Trap (all nude and full liquor) and Woody's. That's just good fun. The Booby Trap was packed.

It's not particularly warm here today, mid 60's maybe, but it's nice to be relatively warm and tomorrow proves to be even warmer.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Off to Florida

My first trip to the Florida Keys starts Friday morning. Dejesus Freak and I are going to the same wedding and are traveling together down there. Should be fun. I haven't been to a beach wedding, though I was invited to one when Joisey Ken and I were in Turks and Caicos.

There was a wedding in T&C and I met the bride and groom pool side and they invited me to the ceremony. Since they lived in Denver and the chances of me ever seeing them again was remote at best, I respectfully declined telling them that they really didn't want me to be there because you never know what I was going to do. I did walk by down by the water though and doffed my bright orange floppy hat in their direction during the ceremony. Seemed more appropriate.

For the second day in a row, I had hamburgers for lunch. This time DJF and I went to the newly opened Five Guys on Clybourn. Their burger is WAY better than MeatHeads. Not even close.

Here's the humble store front on busy Clybourn.

Inside the place was hopping!

Today's fries are brought to you by: Idaho Falls, Idaho. Too funny. They give you a shitload of fries. An older couple sitting behind us gave us their leftover bag of fries because they ordered two small orders, got one large instead and then Five Guys gave them two more large orders to make up for thier mistake. Needless to say, DJF and I had no chance of finishing them or even making a dent in them. It's funny (or cute) how that generation went without for so long that they thought nothing of offering us their food. They didn't want it to go to waste, so of course, give it to someone . With this economy, we might be headed back to that way of thinking......which might not be all that bad.

Things I'm grateful for:
#82 saved linen beach wear. It still looks good!
#83 people who care enough to want me to text them when I land. Yay!
#84 that I can just email my orthopedic doctor (who operated on my knee) and that he'll actually respond with a diagnosis. Nice.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

New Burger Joint

I'm not even sure what to say about this story, but it seems like Mexico has a long way to go before they can join the rest of the world with stuff like this going on.

Today I headed out to see the folks and drop off my mother's Christmas gift which finally arrived (or at least an undamaged one did). In addition to taking them to lunch (see below), we hit the firing range! Good fun. We shot a .22 and a .38/.357. The latter is a gun that will take EITHER .38 or .357 bullets. Nice concept. Quite the kick though. The .22 is nice with a 10 shot clip and pretty smooth firing. My FOID card was employed!!

For lunch, we hit this spot:

Yep, a new burger joint in the 'ville. It smacks of Five Guys, so I was pretty excited.

Here's the menu, which for some reason rotated all on it's own. I have it saved as not rotated, but it seems to have a mind of its own. Reasonably priced fare I would say.

Here is the traditional Meat Head burger. It looked good and my pop ate it, so that's good. He thought the bun should be bigger though.

The top of my Hawaiian Burger, but with cheddar cheese instead of pepper jack. That's bacon and barbecue sauce. A good start.

The underbelly of the beast. Jalapeno's and pineapple. Unfortunately, the pineapple wasn't very flavorful....a bit disappointing.